In today’s dynamic Israel, efforts to advance equality and shared society between Jewish and Arab citizens are more urgent – and elusive – than ever before. Sikkuy believes that progress depends not on “miracles,” but on being “explicit” about investing in systematic monitoring and evaluation (M&E) exercises and developing a unique approach and culture for understanding contribution and impact. We have repeatedly witnessed the immense value of such investment, both internally and externally, over the past several years.
But the prevailing culture of Israel’s third sector (and in other countries), and the familiar refrain of organizational poverty, have consistently led many NGOs to claim they are too busy with their “real work” to undertake what they assume is complex, time-consuming and challenging M&E work. Indeed, as an advocacy organization itself, Sikkuy has faced formidable challenges to measuring its own progress. Our projects’ well-developed Theories of Change are never fixed; they depend upon both flexibility and resilience, because the opening and closing of policy windows are difficult to predict in advance. Policy outcomes often occur far off in the future, making it hard to show a compelling link between program interventions and social changes. In fact, as the toughest of social problems increasingly require cross-sector cooperation, attributing specific results to a particular strategy or player can seem impossible.
With all this, meaningful M&E does not require scientific exactitude to increase project and organizational effectiveness and sustainability. Instead, Sikkuy has identified and is deeply committed to using pragmatic tools for engaging in systematic and participatory reflection, whose findings are used for making better programmatic and management choices:
- Qualitative improvement of program communication, management, outputs and outcomes.
- Minimization of waste by identifying “fast fails” and providing direction for course corrections using simple formative (process) and summative (outcomes) techniques.
- Deepening of staff and other internal stakeholder buy-in.
- Expansion of our capacities to explain our work to external stakeholders, including cross-sector funders and partners, the media, partner NGOs, and the general public.
Since 2011, Dr. Jennifer (Jenny) Cohen has served as Sikkuy’s Director of Organizational Learning and Evaluation, working in partnership with leadership and staff to increase the organization’s strategic questioning and the practical application of quantitative and qualitative data. The understandings Sikkuy has surfaced through cost-effective M&E activities have helped us make more informed decisions about internal performance improvements that complement our many years of deep experience and successes in the field.
To further spark and contribute to the broader conversation regarding the value of “learning organizations” among Israeli NGOs, Sikkuy is pleased to make its M&E toolbox available for review and use by the public, upon request. Resources include:
- Theories of change and logic models;
- Formats for planning, quarterly, and final review processes that use agreed-upon output and outcome benchmark indicators on the individual, project team, department, and organization levels;
- Survey, interview, and targeted reflection exercise guides for use at different stages of program development; and
- Introductory workshops on evaluative thinking in advocacy organizations.
Sikkuy looks forward to exploring additional ways for improving management and outcomes in shared society and social change organizations. Please feel free to engage along with us, sharing of your own experiences, knowledge, and materials, on this complicated and critical journey.
For additional reading: “Adaptive Capacity in Israeli Social Change Nonprofits“.